North America’s Major League Soccer played its inaugural season in 1996 and although Philadelphia was a top ten market with storied sports franchises, it was not awarded a team.
Ten long years later, it still didn’t have a team, so a small group of die-hard Philadelphia soccer fans took matters into their own hands and did something crazy: they formed a supporters club for a team that didn’t exist. Naming their group after famous Philadelphian Benjamin Franklin, they called themselves the Sons of Ben. They had one goal – bring professional soccer to Philadelphia.
Setting themselves the modest goal of expanding to 100 members by the end of one year, they tapped into a wellspring of local soccer fanatics and soon had 1,500 drum-banging, song-singing followers. Together, these Sons of Ben started a movement that brought into existence the Philadelphia Union, changing the soccer landscape in Philadelphia forever, and also helped revive a struggling community abandoned by government, business, and its neighbors.